You have made a promise to yourself – you’re going to lose weight, starting now. On your first shopping trip, you analyze each label. What has the least amount of fat? You choose that one. As you peruse the label, though, you realize that it’s not that simple. You forgot that there were this many kinds of fat – monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat…what are all of these again? You remember learning something about this in your high school health class but can’t recall the details. Is all fat bad? No, it’s not. Here are the facts.
What is Fat?
All fats are made up of varying amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon molecules. These form a long chain. The kind of fat you see depends on the make-up of that chain – or the molecular structure of the fat. Saturated fat is made up of single carbon atoms bonded to two hydrogen atoms and is considered to be “saturated” with hydrogen. A fat is monounsaturated when one carbon molecule is double bonded to only one hydrogen molecule. A polyunsaturated fat has more than one of these double bonds. A transaturated fat (trans fat) is a fat that has been artificially manipulated – this is a scary kind of fat which has been linked to disease.
Now that we’re done with the molecular science lesson, we can get into how these various fats affect your body.
Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat
Fats are vital to your body’s well-being. Your body needs fatty acids in order to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. They also help to maintain your skin and hair and keep cells functioning properly. Your body will not run smoothly without them.
Fats have often been blamed for weight gain. While it’s true that fats may be a contributing factor, they are by no means the sole reason for this. You need to take in the whole picture in order to understand what’s happening to your body.
Your body is capable of breaking fat down into glucose that it can then use for energy. This process, however, requires energy from your body. Conversely, grains, processed carbohydrates, and sugary foods break down very easily and are a “quick fix” of energy for your body. When confronted with a choice, your body is going to go with the one that is easier to break down and won’t metabolize fat as effectively. Plus, if your body has more carbohydrates than it can readily use for energy, it will store the surplus as fat. In today’s high-carb, high sugar diet, many do not give their bodies a chance to tap into that reserve, and thus find it harder to lose weight. It is easy to see that excessive carbohydrates are the main culprit in the vicious cycle of weight gain!
Fats to Avoid
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are mostly found in corn, peanut, soybean, and grain products. These tend to go rancid easily and give off free radicals when heated. These are also the oils we tend to use when we fry things – adding insult to injury by frying foods that aren’t good for us in oils that are heated to dangerous temperatures … you get the picture. These are also the fats that are hydrogenated, giving them a longer shelf life but removing all nutritional value. This is great for the storekeeper who wants his product to last longer, but bad for your body.
Trans Fats. If you could choose one kind of fat to ban from your house, this is the one! These have been altered at the molecular level and hydrogenated. Far from being just simple, nutritionless food, these fats are a danger to your body. They are absorbed into your cells and mess up the cells’ functions. These evil minions of the fat world have been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, abdominal fat, and certain types of cancer. Stay far away from them.
Fats Your Body Needs
Saturated Fats. Found in meat, coconut, and avocado, these fats are essential to proper cell function. They are necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins, for calcium uptake, immune function, and cell membrane structure. Many have found that they actually lose weight when they have regular intake of saturated fats combined with a low-grain diet
Monounsaturated fats can be found in oils such as olive, safflower, sunflower, and flax. These are good for you. However, a word of caution is warranted. Because many mix in polyunsaturated fats with these oils, moderation is recommended.
The Omegas are absolutely vital to your body. Omega-3s and Omega-6s go hand in hand and should be kept in a balance. Omega 3s can be found in fish, nuts, and kinds of algae, while Omega-6s can be found in grains, corn, and animals that eat grains and corn. As you might imagine, people tend to eat more Omega-6-rich food, but again, balance is encouraged. It is especially necessary to include these in your diet because your body isn’t capable of producing them on its own.
Balance with anything is key. You know what fats are necessary for your body, and you know what fats to avoid. Once you get a balance with the right kinds of fat, you should lose weight in no time.
- 10 Commonly Accepted Nutrition Facts – BUSTED! (atlasdrugandnutrition.com)